Deep Breaths, Walk Outside, Count To Ten. Try Again.

Many years ago my girlfriend came home from the hospital with a baby who screamed and screamed. And just when you thought she’d finished screaming – she’d scream some more. I would watch my exhausted girlfriend maniacally push the stroller forwards and backwards, backwards and forwards, willing her baby to just stop for a moment. Just long enough for everyone to catch their breath. She tried everything, everything.

When things became really bad, I sent her off to the spa and spent the afternoon pacing the floor with her little girl. It was the newborn cry, the one that sounds like a small angry motorbike revving in your ear on high rotation. There were moments of peace but for the majority of the time there was screaming. It was hardcore parenting, the kind that involves occasionally closing the door, walking outside and counting to vodka.

All options were explored: more boobs, more bottles, chiropractors, baby whisperers and massage. Nothing seemed to work. And then one sweet doctor provided some hopeful information.

“She’s bored. She’s a highly intelligent baby and she’s just bored being a baby.”

My girlfriend clung to this information like it was next weeks winning lottery ticket. My baby is super intelligent. That’s the problem, she’s too smart to be a baby. This will all make sense, it will all be worth it.

We’ve all clung to something. The first smile. The first wave, the first blow of a kiss, the first “Mum”. C’mon baby, just give me something back.

It was my beautiful Aunty Laurie who once told me that we all want to be wanted, but being needed? Being needed wasn’t quite as nice. Being needed usually involved some-one else’s neediness.

Pick me up, put me down, feed me, play with me, tickle me, watch me, watch me, YOU”RE NOT WATCHING ME.

Now go away.

My baby, my first teen baby, had what is commonly known as a really shitty day. From the moment she didn’t wake up and was late, to the moment she found herself face to face with her mother at the end of a very long and shitty day.

“We need to sort this out. If you’re mad it can’t be everyones problem. We need to talk about this.”

Nothing. We sat in silence. As the minutes ticked past I considered ancient forms of water torture, I contemplated consulting Guantanamo. Was that my heartbeat I could hear in the silence? Nothing. We were at a stalemate. The best I could get was a shrug, an indifferent eyebrow was raised but only just, minimal effort appeared to be important in teen communications.

I had to leave the room. I sat outside of the bedroom door and took a few deep breaths. I had interviewed hundreds of people and was trained in the art of open questions. Nothing. She was giving me nothing.

We were better than this. How did we land here? In this angst ridden spot? The more I reached out, the more she retreated. I went to put my hand on her shoulder. She flinched. My beautiful girl. More time. More silence. It began to get dark.

And then finally it came: the tears, the explanation, the conversation, the hug, the giggles, the ‘thanks Mum’. We were back. She was back.

Pick me up, put me down, feed me, play with me, tickle me, watch me, watch me, YOU’RE NOT WATCHING ME.

Now go away.

To wrap or unwrap, hold her upright with her cheek to yours, she likes it if you rub her back. Take the teething ring with the fish. The book with the elephants. Don’t forget to put the strawberries in her lunch, she loves them. Three books tonight, okay, but just one more. Have you asked her Mummy if she can sleep over? You can watch the movie if you’ve read the book. Ears pierced? Who has a telephone? Flute or trombone? I am not going to drop you at a mall.

The questions continue, their impact more frightening. Deep breaths, you can do this, walk outside count to ten. Begin again. It all has to be done with words now, no more teething rings or favourite toys, it’s conversations, knowing when to back off and when to step forward.

Although everything is different it continues to come from the same place. I held her tight, we were cheek to cheek while I rubbed her back. “Today was a really shitty day, next time we should maybe try this?”

We’re both learning, amateurs trying to look like we know what we’re doing. Deep breaths, walk outside, count to ten. Try again.

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